- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS | Having added a hard-throwing reliever and veteran catcher in the first two days of the MLB winter meetings, the Washington Nationals were free to begin work on their most pressing need: an experienced starting pitcher. And according to general manager Mike Rizzo, the other signings Monday and Tuesday didn’t alter the team’s plan.

The St. Louis Cardinals signed right-hander Brad Penny to a one-year, $7.5 million deal, and rumors were swirling Tuesday evening that the Milwaukee Brewers were closing in on a three-year, $28 million deal with left-hander Randy Wolf. But Rizzo, at least publicly, seemed undeterred by those two pitchers being snapped off the market at prices higher than expected.

“The current signings haven’t affected our plans at all,” Rizzo said. “I don’t think it’s affected our market at all. A one-year deal on a Brad Penny, I don’t think, has much relevance to a lot of the other players.”

When right-hander John Lackey is the only top-end starter on the free agent market, other teams have zeroed in on the same second-level pitchers the Nationals are targeting, including Jon Garland, Joel Pineiro and Vicente Padilla.

“At the end of the day, there are teams that aren’t going to give a guy $10 million [a deal in Lackey’s range],” team president Stan Kasten said. “That’s where the interesting part of this begins, where this [second] group of guys goes. Obviously, it won’t be for that much.”

- Ben Goessling

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